Some 350 million men and women, or 1 out of every 20 people on this planet, are migrants. Yet, the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council survey deems migration to be of no relevance at all – not one single respondent considered this issue to be of any importance. So what happened between now and last year’s survey when migration was ranked as the 15th most important global trend?
Little has changed since 2011 in terms of the medium- to long-term migration forecasts that are largely based on changing global demographics; the global economic crisis seems to have had little effect on migration forecasts. Yet, even as economic growth continues to dwindle and, perhaps more importantly, the Eurozone crisis becomes of increasing concern, a longer term phenomenon such as migration is placed at the bottom of the worry pile.
This sharp transformation of opinion is regrettable on a couple of accounts.
First, there appears to be weak grasp of the fact that the economic situation and migration flows are inseparable. More to the point, policy-makers and planners do not sufficiently take into account the effect changes in the economy can have on human mobility. For example, within Europe we are seeing nationals of Mediterranean states moving northward in the search of employment, and there are considerable numbers of Portuguese moving to Lusophone countries in Africa and to Brazil. In China, factory closures are sending workers back to their villages often to a life of renewed poverty and frustration, which in turn could have serious political and social consequences.
Leaving aside the economic arena and its effect on migration, political transformation in the Middle East and North Africa has done nothing to mitigate forecasts of over 50 million unemployed youth within the next 20 years, many of whom will be pushing at the gates of Europe. And environmental concerns have not decreased, which still leaves the potential for many millions of people to be displaced by the effects of climate change.
Another reason I find this particular survey result to be disappointing is that it points to a lack of concern over the human consequences of the various dangers facing the world. While we often talk of and measure migration in terms of numbers – as I did at the start of this blog – the act of migrating is a very individual matter reflecting, when voluntary, an individual’s hopes and aspirations, or when forced, proof of human resilience.
The many millions who went on the move last year have, in their own manner, answered the questions laid out in the Global Agenda Council survey. Perhaps next year, we should also listen to what migrants are telling us.
Author: Richard Danziger is Chief of Mission for Sri Lanka, International Organization for Migration (IOM), GAC on Illicit Trade and a member of the Global Agenda Council on Illicit Trade.
Image: Ethiopian migrants walk along a highway leading to the western Yemeni town of Haradh on the border with Saudi Arabia REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi